Higher a professional rises in designation, lesser he is useful to architectural creativity- Dr SS Bhatti, Chandigarh College of Architecture

Dr SS Bhatti is a versatile professional

Dr SS Bhatti is a versatile professional—architect, artist, art & literature critic, poet, singer, musicologist, writer, philosopher, and mystic. He applies the tools of Theory, Practice, Research, and Pedagogy to the study of four major fields of human endeavour: the Humanities, Art, Science, and Technology besides Comparative Religion. He has also discovered some Spiritual Realities that illuminate the purpose, path, and salvation of human life. He defines Architecture beautifully.

“Khalvat kee fizaaon mein karoon jalvatein paida Jo khaak mein pinhaan hain woh hon sooratein paida Utroon main lahoo ban ke rag-i-sang mein jis dam Hon Taj-o-Ajanta see haseen mooratein paida” 

In desolate Emptinesses I’m creating Habitations Forms that lie hidden in dust become Manifestations When I course like blood thro’ the veins of Stone Taj-‘n’-Ajanta emerge as Beautiful Configurations

Beautifully defined. Below is an excerpt from the interaction with SURFACES REPORTER magazine.

“Architecture, design and fine arts” - these have sunk deep into my thoughts, words, and deeds.

In the Rose Garden - Mixed Media Award-Winning Painting by Dr SS Bhatti

1. SR: Your experiences spread across diverse domains - architecture, academics, poetry. Please take us through the journey.

Having the proud privilege of being a founder-teacher of CCA, I served this premier institution in various capacities: Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, and, finally, Principal, from which position I retired on 30 June 1996 after glorious innings of nearly 35 years.

In 1984 I was nominated as Fellow to the Panjab University Senate as a result of which I became Dean, Faculty of Design & Fine Arts, which oversees the courses in painting, sculpture, applied art, graphics; dance, drama, music; history of art, and architecture, offered at Panjab University and its affiliated colleges. This position which I held for 12 years gave me enviable powers which I put to good use in improving the stated courses in every possible way.

We also set up Consultancy Practice Cell in which I did over a dozen projects for Beas & Sutlej Link (BSL) Canal besides the design of my own house and Punjab Arts Council (PAC) building (named Punjab Kala Bhawan) in Chandigarh’s Rose Garden. For my house, I won Professor Mahesh Varma Construction Research Award of Roorkee University for original contribution to innovative engineering in 1994, which gave me the distinction of being the only architect in India to have won an engineering award.

After retirement, Ar VK Mathur, Director, Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee, invited me to inspect various departments and their working. It was my life’s most beautiful experience. I was also appointed Architectural Adviser by the Punjab University. Though it was a short-lived assignment I succeeded in designing Guru Tegh Bahadar Bhawan free of charge saving my alma mater about 35 lakhs of rupees in professional fees. Guru Tegh Bahadur Bhawan is a true “Green Building” of its kind in Chandigarh.

In October 1999, I founded First Friday Forum as open platform for interaction between professionals from different fields and the public, which has till date organised 240 talks on a staggering variety of subjects/disciplines/themes. In 2006, I instituted Annual Oration-cum-Awards-Giving Function, and dilated upon the path-breaking theme of “Chandigarh as Modern Heritage” in my maiden venture. The success of this mission was that Chandigarh was accepted as “Modern Heritage” against the century-old law of Archaeological Survey of India that only such buildings and sites as are at least 100- year old could be accepted and called “heritage”! To my credit is also the Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID) that I had co-founded with late Sardar Manjit Singh Majithia in 1973. I became founding editor of its Journal “Interior Design”.

Now I am working as Consultant in Landscape Architecture, pursuing research in several fields, and writing books. I have already published 31 books.

Unconditional respect for ‘Heritage’ ought to be studiously cultivated and practised from toddlers through teenage to adulthood.

 

2. SR: What do you enjoy teaching more - architecture, design or fine arts?

I have cultivated versatile creativity as an attitude, work ethic, and professional commitment with philosophy, mysticism, poetry, Hindu mythology, and religion thrown into my occupational kitty. It is no exaggeration to stress that “architecture, design and fine arts,” have sunk deep into my thoughts, words, and deeds so as to become my second nature.

 

3. SR: What major changes have you witnessed in architecture & design education in India in your long journey?

Ever since the degree course in architecture was introduced in India during mid-1950s it has been a five-year programme with examinations held annually which later on turned into the semester system. At CCA, we were perhaps the first in the country to introduce the semester system with effect from the academic session 1972-73. In my assessment, very little has changed because the model that we established at CCA was readily adopted in several new colleges where our alumni were the founding directors/principals—and from there it spread across the country. However, each institution depending upon its geographical location has tended to introduce certain regional elements in an attempt to make Architectural Education relevant to the needs of area, which is a sensible contribution.

 

4. SR: What changes do you still want to see? Please outline some points.

The foremost change that would encourage more and more intensive study of architectural courses and be economical too is to reduce the course from five to three years. Since Architecture is the Art and Science of making Built Environment it goes without saying that its advancement depends upon the new materials and new construction methods to make a worthwhile difference. I find to my chagrin that many schools still teach the subject of Building Construction from old books that are hopelessly outdated. A sane thing would be to engage various Companies to teach these subjects by audio-visual presentation of the materials, methods, equipment, gadgets that they manufacture and sell.

 

5. SR: Do you think art and architecture merge?

From my study of the human civilisation I find that Man became an Artist before he became anything else. This fact is borne by the evidence of cave paintings some of which are now as old as 60,000 years! However, when Man put his native genius to the creation of ‘Shelter’ after moving out of the cave his foremost art assumed the stature of Architecture which has since become an inescapable psycho-social art. In the light of this brief exposition, I see absolutely no conflict between Art and Architecture. In simpler terms, I would say that an Architect is unfit to create Architecture of an enduring outstanding universal value if he is not an accomplished Artist in the first place.

 

6. SR: Architects often need to manage their own practice. Should management education be made a part of architecture & design education? How can that help?

Yes. Management Education would impart basic skills necessary to run one’s own practice leading to efficiency. However, when practice expands and flourishes senior employees from within the staff pre-trained as part of their job should be given the responsibility of management. This will free the Principal Architect(s) to devote their expertise and experience to improving architectural design so that the resultant Built Environment progressively becomes better and better. From my experience in government service I have found that the higher a professional rises in official designation, the lesser he is useful to architectural creativity because he devotes more and more time to holding or attending meetings. This, in my considered opinion, is not right.

 

7. SR: How has the field of architecture & design evolved over the years?

Historically, Architecture had to move through several phases before assuming its present IT-Era slickness, lightness, and self-assuring aesthetic vitality. To begin with, in India, the first sign of modernity was noticed in the use of traditional architectural forms for solving contemporary problems. The next stage was the Mediaeval European architecture imported by the British Raj. From this time onwards there was the conscious introduction of features and motifs from the Indian tradition, leading further to the adoption of what was then called the “International Style”. Thenceforth, the search for identity impelled the Indian architects to imbue their creations with the hues of “regionalism”. However, when from 1950s Le Corbusier and his associates introduced modern architecture in Chandigarh in a big way, a stylistic change was discernible across the country. Present-day architecture, at least in metropolises, is a loud echo of widespread latest building materials, construction techniques, gadgets and equipment. New materials and novel methods have created what I call a striking IT-Era Aesthetic befitting Modern Urbanism.

 

8. SR: Your views about Surfaces Reporter magazine?

Surfaces Reporter Magazine - India’s 1st ‘Materials-Centric’ magazine on interior-exterior products & projects – is, indeed, a much-needed, long-awaited publication that celebrates, informs, and persuades professionals in the country to take notice of new materials and pay to them the respect they deserve because what architects and interior designers are doing could never have been achieved without these novel substances being there in the first place. New materials as reported and discussed in Surfaces Reporter Magazine constitute the flesh, bones, and skin (surfaces) without which the Body of Architecture is inconceivable.

“Present-day architecture, at least in metropolises, is a loud echo of widespread latest building materials, construction techniques, gadgets and equipment.” - “The higher a professional rises in official designation, the lesser he is useful to architectural creativity because he devotes more and more time to holding or attending meetings. This, in my considered opinion, is not right.”

 

9. SR: Your message to young architects & designers.

My foremost message to young architects and designers is that they must consciously develop the habit of using their own minds to think their own thoughts. I believe that change for the better can be brought about only by the youth, for they alone are capable of inventing the future with their bubbling energy and rosy dreams.

 

10. SR: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Would appeal to all fellow Indians to know at first hand the beauty and bounty of our great tradition that had made its mark centuries ago in the historic proclamation “Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam” (World is My Family) and adopted ‘Holism’ as an authentic approach to the study of Nature for creating knowledge and then using it for general weal of the entire Humankind.

Vastu Shastra is a good reminder that we ought to unify science, art, astronomy, music, mathematics, etc. to develop the mystic art and science of Architecture and to deploy it in the making of the Built (i.e. Human) Environment with minimal damage to the Natural Environment. Finally, unconditional respect for ‘Heritage’ ought to be studiously cultivated and practised from toddlers through teenage to adulthood.

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Published from SURFACES REPORTER May-June 2020 issue | Here is the full issue LINK

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